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August 17, 2018

Stevens Pass sold to Vail in a $64M deal

Journal Staff Reporter

Photo by Vail Resorts [enlarge]
Vail Resorts said in June that it would invest $35 million in four ski properties it bought from Oz Real Estate.

Stevens Pass Ski Area has been sold to Vail Resorts in a deal that Vail values at $64 million.

King County recorded the sale as only $23.7 million. Vail issued a press release with additional details, and said the final price reflected “adjustments for certain agreed-upon terms.”

The seller was CLP Stevens Pass LLC, an entity of Oz Real Estate (previously called Och-Ziff Real Estate), which acquired the property in late 2016 as part of a larger national portfolio sale worth $374 million. That sale also included The Summit at Snoqualmie, which sold again in May.

Connecticut-based Vail is one of the nation's two largest ski resort operators and owners.

The pending deal was announced in June, when Vail said it would also buy Crested Butte in Colorado and two smaller New England resorts from Oz. Brokers, if any, were not announced.

Established in 1937, Stevens Pass used an old V-8 car engine to power its first rope tow. It has since grown to 10 lifts serving 1,125 acres of skiable terrain. Like most ski areas, it operates with a long-term lease on U.S. Forest Service land.

The Bullitt family's Harbor Properties, a prominent Seattle developer, owned Stevens from 1976 until 2011, when it sold for an adjusted $20.5 million.

In the Northwest, Vail bought Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia for just over $1 billion in 2016. It also operates Fernie in B.C. It owns Beaver Creek and Vail in Colorado, and Park City in Utah. Vail owns 14 resorts, and operates others (including Telluride in Colorado), and also owns lodges serving other resorts, including Jackson Hole.

Vail said that previously purchased 2018-19 Stevens season passes will be honored this winter. Various permutations of Vail's Epic and Edge passes will be good at both Whistler and Stevens.

Vail's Kirsten Lynch said in a statement, “We are thrilled to officially welcome Stevens Pass to our family of world-class resorts, and to offer pass holders another exceptional, unique experience” in the Pacific Northwest.

Vail has been on a recent acquisitions binge, with purchases also including Stowe in Vermont and Perisher in Australia. Its current market capitalization is about $11.7 billion.

Vail's chief industry rival is privately held, Colorado-based Alterra Mountain Co., which is widely believed to be targeting Sun Valley in Idaho for acquisition.

Alterra is the new name for the partnership between Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners, which previously bought most of the assets of recession-bloodied Intrawest, once the world's largest ski enterprise — which previously owned Whistler. In the greater Pacific Northwest, Alterra owns CMH Heli Skiing, which has 12 lodges in British Columbia that some Seattle skiers frequent.

Among the big three local ski areas, Michigan-based Boyne Resorts bought the Summit at Snoqualmie in May for $25 million, as part of a larger six-resort deal with Oz. Boyne had already been operating the Summit.

Boyne is run by the Kircher family, whose John Kircher bought out other family members to independently own Crystal Mountain in 2017. Terms for that private deal were not disclosed.

When Harbor Properties owned Stevens, expansion plans were floated but never approved by the Forest Service. Those plans were also likely shelved because of the recession.

Vail didn't mention specific upgrades or improvements to the resort, but said in June that it would invest $35 million in the four ski properties it bought from Oz.


Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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